Happy New Year from The Ed Sullivan Show! To start off the new year we wanted to do a deep dive into the man himself, Mr. Edward Vincent Sullivan also known as TV’s “King Of Variety” for 23 years! He was a straight-faced, awkward man who brought more sparkle and talent to television than perhaps anyone else. We hope you get to know Ed a little better, and experience the timeline of events that led to Ed’s world-wide stardom.
- Ed was a Star Athlete in High School
Sullivan was an all around athlete in high school playing 3 different sports. He played halfback in football, was a guard in basketball, and in track he was a sprinter. Sullivan had such a successful career that he earned 12 athletic letters at Port Chester High School. Sullivan’s favorite sport was baseball where he played catcher, was the team captain, and eventually led his team to several championship games.
- He Turned Down College to Work in the Newspaper Business
Sullivan turned down the opportunity to attend college, even though an uncle had offered to pay for his tuition. He instead chose to go into the newspaper business. Although his family wanted him to take a more traditional path, he followed his own instinct to work in the newspaper industry, which he did from 1918 to 1932. During that time he wrote for The Philadelphia Ledger and several New York-based outlets, which included The New York Daily News.
- Rejected the Era’s Racial Divide
In the early 1950s, Sullivan was presenting Black entertainers long before it became accepted. Ed not only changed the landscape of American television by giving a platform for Black performers, but the show also served as a form of encouragement for the civil rights movement at the time, demonstrating the power of positive race relations and social equality. Notable performances that stood out were from Harry Belafonte, Motown’s finest (The Supremes, Temptations, and Jackson 5), as well as performances by Richard Pryor, and Sammy Davis, Jr.
- Awkward, but Successful
Ed Sullivan was not your average host because his personality was never aligned with your typical TV show personality. He was often criticized and made fun of for his butchering of lines and awkward mispronunciations and mannerisms. On top of that, Sullivan often looked nervous whenever he met his guests, even though he was a famous celebrity himself. Time magazine even went as far as to ask, “What exactly is Ed Sullivan’s talent?” But it was this uniqueness and style of personality that made Sullivan entertaining to watch, and regardless of criticisms, the show went on to do well and lasted from 1948-1971.
- Sullivan Lived the Life
When you have a successful show, you need to enjoy the fruits of your labor, and Ed and his family did just that. They had a good social life that helped them create a vast network. They attended Lyndon B. Johnson’s dinner parties at the White House and John F. Kennedy’s 1962 New York birthday party. They traveled the world, not just for the show, but for fun. Since Ed was so busy, they would eat out five nights a week at the most popular and glitzy restaurants and clubs. The Sullivan family’s favorite dining spots included Danny’s Hideaway, the Stork Club, and Jimmy Kelly’s.
- Hotel Lifestyle
The Delmonico Hotel on Park Avenue was at one point home to the Sullivan’s for several years. Ed rented a few suites including the grand family suite. Next to it was a suite that Sullivan used as his office until the show got canceled. Aside from the hotel being a residence to Sullivan, he also hosted many dinners and meetings there with various artists and their representatives, such as The Beatles and Bob Dylan. Prior to living at the Delmonico Hotel, the Sullivan’s lived at the Astor Hotel in Times Square. Well after Ed’s departure, Donald Trump purchased and converted the Delmonico into residential condominiums.
- Helped Raise Public Awareness About Mental Illness
In this day and age, many celebrities support causes, one of them being mental health awareness by giving their names to help individuals and families who are suffering in silence. In Sullivan’s time, this wasn’t as common, however, he made a point to touch on mental health awareness on his show. A notable moment was when a guest named Joshua Logan, spoke on-air in 1953, when Logan used the platform to recount his own mental breakdown. In addition, Sullivan also spoke to a guest about his time in a mental institution. This shed light on the country’s struggle with mental health. The track record shows that Sullivan felt proud of this contribution to the country.
- The Final Say
The Ed Sullivan Show was not a success without some bad blood and controversies. Sullivan didn’t just sit back and invite people to perform, he had all the power regarding his show’s creative direction. While many entertainers were honored to have stood on the show’s stage, there were also artists that never even set foot on the show, and others never got invited back.
The most notable altercation was when Sullivan made a request of The Doors’ lead singer, Jim Morrison, when he and his band appeared on the show in 1967. The Doors were slated to sing their hit song, “Light My Fire,” but Sullivan didn’t believe some of the lyrics were appropriate for his audience. He asked the band to change the words, “Girls, we couldn’t get much higher,” to, “Girls, we couldn’t get much better.” Morrison decided not to oblige the host’s request and sang the real lyrics live, earning him and his band mates a ban from the show. Some other artists that Sullivan had conflicts with were Bo Diddley, Jackie Mason, rival columnist Walter Winchell, Frank Sinatra, and Buddy Holly.
- Happily Ever After
In 1926, Sullivan met Sylvia Weinstein. The pair dated on and off for about three to four years until their wedding at New York’s City Hall in 1930. Weinstein’s family was Jewish and didn’t want her to marry a Catholic, so she lied to her family and said she was marrying Ed Solomon. The couple had one daughter, Elizabeth “Betty”, named after Sullivan’s mother, who coincidentally passed away later that year in 1930. Betty lived a more reserved life staying out of the entertainment spotlight. She became a Navy wife, full-time mother and her husband Bob Precht joined Ed as Producer of the Sullivan Show. In 2014, Betty Precht passed away at the age of 83.
- Hollywood Walk-Of-Fame Star
On February 8, 1960, the legendary host was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which is located at 6101 Hollywood Blvd. This is just one of his many awards on his resume including a Golden Globe and a Peabody Award. However, what stands out the most is the number of talents that have stars on Hollywood Boulevard whose careers were influenced by Mr. Sullivan himself. Sullivan is remembered for being a broadcasting pioneer and a star maker who brought the most iconic names in the entertainment industry directly to America’s viewers.
We appreciate you for tuning in and hope you got to know Ed a little bit better. We wish you all the best this New Year, and hope it brings you lots of happiness, prosperity, and new memories to come!